Colleagues of another race OK, but not spouses: Survey

SINGAPORE - More than nine in 10 Singaporeans accept colleagues and neighbours of a different race but fewer are willing to marry or welcome an in-law of another race.

A recent survey on race relations here has found that while Singaporeans are generally open to other races in the public sphere, this attitude does not always extend to the private space.

For instance, among non-Malay respondents, just over three in 10 said they would be comfortable with a Malay spouse.

The numbers were similar when non- Indian respondents were asked about marrying an Indian person, and just slightly higher - five in 10 - for a parallel question on Eurasians.

The finding was characteristic of the bigger picture on race relations painted by the study of more than 4,000 Singaporeans by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) and racial harmony advocacy group The country has made good progress, but there is still some way to go.

IPS director Janadas Devan said the results show "an overwhelming majority of Singaporeans are ideologically committed to the idea of Singapore being a multiracial society".

But he sounded a note of caution, especially as fewer than half of the respondents said they had a close friend of another race.

And there were other gaps as well. Those born here were much less comfortable with workmates who are new citizens of a different race.

While 94 per cent of non-Chinese accept a local-born Chinese as their boss, that share falls to 74 per cent for a boss who is a new citizen originally from China.

There was also a significant number who said that minorities are disadvantaged at work.

Some 36 per cent of respondents felt Malays had to work harder or much harder than someone of another race to reach the top spot in their company. For Indians, the figure was 31 per cent.

The Chinese had marginally different attitudes to race relations compared to minority ethnic groups. They were, for instance, the least keen to learn from other races.

IPS research fellow Mathew Mathews, who headed the survey, said the results indicate that racial bias "has not been removed across the board".

This survey is the first to create 10 indicators to measure inter-racial and inter-religious trust.

The aim is to pose the questions again in future to gauge shifts in attitudes. The results were presented yesterday at a forum, which saw a lively discussion on topics ranging from social exclusion to discrimination. chairman Zainudin Nordin, also an MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, called for further dialogue on race.

He said: "Let this not be the end but the start of a meaningful conversation that we can translate into positive action for the good of our country and society."

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